Stop risk at the front door

As with many programmes, in background screening there are numerous internal stakeholders and each brings to the table a different view of risk. Yet, building and scaling a screening programme that effectively addresses multi-faceted risk requires a shift toward a more unified organisational perspective over the long term.

By embracing cross-functional collaboration and evolving screening trends, organisations can optimise risk mitigation and create a next-level screening programme that addresses the needs of all stakeholders.

Setting the Table

It is easy to think of background screening as a tick-box exercise owned by HR, a necessary hurdle to jump in order to get your new employee on board. However, this view overlooks the critical importance of the background check.

In my years of meeting with organisations of all sizes across nearly all industries, I’ve seen stakeholder audiences grow. At the table today, you might easily find HR leaders, managers and generalists, plus members of the executive, IT, Compliance and Risk teams.

It is a diverse group, each with a dog in the fight. Talent Acquisition and recruiters are focused on building a qualified candidate pool and quickly filling open roles, while others within HR are concerned about the candidate experience and employee retention. IT is focused on technology requirements and system integration, while compliance officers must ensure that a programme addresses local, state, federal and industry-level guidelines and regulations. Risk teams protect the interest of the business, its employees and customers, while executive leaders are responsible for the big picture — programme ROI and performance.

At times, the competing agendas can create tension or even conflict, but experienced background screening professionals can balance the discussion by introducing alternative ways of thinking about risk to help unify teams and build a shared mission.

For instance, there is the concept of “upstream” and “downstream” risk. Upstream basically covers all things pre-hire and downstream is post-hire, which often centres on the consequences of bad hiring decisions. The two are inter-related if you accept the premise that past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour.

Putting risk in a broader context like this can help teams see beyond functional concerns and focus more on an organisational view.

Setting Expectations

In one of my recent meetings with a top financial institution, I noticed a clear lack of communication between the HR and Risk teams. We talked about how some of the more complex background screening cases might take a week or more to complete, and the question was raised, “if it takes that long, why are we doing it?”

The stakeholder discussion stopped, as the HR group backtracked to explain the variables in a comprehensive background screening process. Once everyone understood that the time investment must be carefully balanced with the potential risks of not screening, we could move forward.

This scenario underscores the importance of setting expectations, both internally and externally when it comes to background screening, not to mention remaining mindful of the benefits.

Among the impacted work groups, it is important to establish a common understanding of the background screening process, why it is necessary, what it will entail and how long it can take.

For example, ahead of any group stakeholder discussions review legacy systems with IT to understand necessary system integrations and compatibility. Meet with Legal and Compliance teams to consider new and evolving regulations, such as local laws that might restrict the ability to enquire into and store a candidate’s personal information.

These types of cross-functional discussions help reduce internal silos and duplicated efforts among stakeholders, while also helping everyone better understand the role their teams play within the bigger process.

Externally, the candidate experience is top of mind. Knowing this, organisations can clearly communicate all screening requirements and expectations to candidates and inform them that they fully endorse the background screening process. This shows candidates that the company takes risk and compliance seriously and the candidate needs to as well.

Moving Ahead

Obtaining understanding and support for the screening programme is only the first step. It is also critical to evaluate the macro-environment and how it might advance or redirect your efforts. From my perspective, here are a few background screening trends to watch:

1. Evolving Compliance and Regulatory Issues

When it comes to regulatory risk, banks used to bear most of the background screening burden. Today, that extends out to financial services firms, securities brokers, asset management and insurance providers.

Likewise, increased regulations around anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism extend across organisations involved in any kind of international transactions. Financial institutions, pharmaceutical firms, shipping and IT are all concerned about the risk of financial crime and fraud, and they are relying on screening providers for help.

2. Intellectual property

Organisations are thinking differently about intellectual property since company information is increasingly stored in the cloud, and on servers, systems and laptops.

Employers are being extra cautious about which employees can access that type of information and using background screening to comprehensively vet those candidates.

3. Contractors and consultants

In an era of economic uncertainty, more organisations are using consultants and contractors in the place of full-time staff. Prior to placing contract workers onsite, they are requiring them to engage in the background screening process to ensure they are vetted and trustworthy.

While many employers are screening their contractors, others are requiring contractors to screen themselves using a self-service tool.

4. Mobile access

For most people today, if you are touching technology, it is on your smartphone.

Companies are looking for a background screening platform experience on a smartphone that will allow candidates to manage the process from start to finish. That includes photographing necessary documents and uploading them directly from their smart phone in a mobile-enabled environment.

5. Automation

Manual processes that involve phone calls to third parties or faxes are becoming less prevalent.

Organisations are looking for faster, more accurate candidate screening with automated processes, robotics, sophisticated algorithms and system-to-system interactions that can pull data and quickly cull through it to find matches using personal information provided by the candidate.

6. Next-gen analytics

Increasingly, organisations are demanding data-driven performance insights from their background screening programme.

Instead of component-level metrics, they want to see overall trends in subpopulations of candidates, by demographic, gender, age group and role. They want configurable dashboards filled with real-time data visualisations that show practical stats like time to hire and time to get candidates onboarded for increased programme visibility and transparency.

A unified approach to background screening can help

At its heart, background screening is about mitigating risk. By getting all internal stakeholders aligned around a background screening programme that addresses current and future trends, organisations better position themselves both internally and externally to stop employee-related risk before it walks through the front door.

Cover image: Shutterstock

This article is contributed by First Advantage.

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